Live Through This

Outsider/Insider

You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Illustration by Hattie

I.
In eighth grade, in the middle of reading lines from Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors—a play my English teacher insisted was “funny if you would just put in the effort”—the two girls who sat behind me, who weren’t even the worst of the worst, took out a box of packing peanuts and dumped its entire contents on my head. When I came home with little bits of white fluff in my hair my grandmother exclaimed, “You’ve gone white!” in Chinese and I mumbled, “It’s freakin’ Styrofoam!” in English and locked myself in my room, crying in that heinously dramatic way I had learned from watching my heroines on TV cry—the Lindsay Weirs and Angela Chases who seemed to have pain rumbling from their every pore, and yet, unlike me, they had friends who stood up for them, boys who tried hard to understand them, and a world that wasn’t entirely hostile to every fiber of their being. I had packing-peanut pieces in my hair, a lifetime membership to the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, and the rest of my miserable life to dream about escaping a world that I swore could never ever understand me.

When middle school ended, I scrawled in my yearbook, “MEMO: Eighth grade was hell. I hope Glen Cove burns down to hell. I was THE outcast,” and subsequently spent the summer feeling lonely and abandoned, like a fleck of paint flung out to a part of the world without buildings or walls, someplace where my small, negligible life did not belong. “My life will always be like this,” I wrote in one of my many notebooks that summer. If no one was going to talk to me, then I would talk to myself. If there was no one who I wanted to listen to, then I was going to listen to myself. That summer, I filled up eight notebooks with poetry and song lyrics that you couldn’t tie me up and drug me into looking at again.

In ninth grade, I mixed sugar with water in my mom’s spray bottle and used the mixture to spike my hair. It would be another year before I watched SLC Punk and decided that I was a secret punker who was too good for the suburban hell I lived in. I was a misfit whose poetic sensibilities were just too poetic to ever be understood or accepted by the kids who traded last year’s wide-legged JNCO skater pants for this year’s Gap polos. I told myself that the kids who abandoned Green Day for Britney and would abandon Britney for whatever MTV told them to like the next year, who laughed at our 75-year-old math teacher when she fell off her stool in the middle of explaining proportional fractions and then laughed at me when I went to help her get up, who prided themselves on how little they ever thought about anything and publicly shamed me for how much I always thought about everything, would grow up to be the kind of people who talked about high school like those were the halcyon days, like life peaked back then and would never be as good—and, for them, it wouldn’t.

Just to keep myself from sinking, I had to believe that these kids, whose meanness and cluelessness were validated and encouraged by the entire structure of high school, would one day lead miserable, dreamless lives while I filled mine with poetry and rock & roll and adventure and love. And one day, I would return to this town that once gave me so much grief for not wanting to wear what everyone else wore and not wanting to cheat on tests like everyone else cheated on tests and not caring about sports or cheerleading or bake-sale fundraisers or junior prom or senior prom or pep rallies or making fun of my teachers. I would roll through town and still be the weirdo I have always been, but instead of its being something grotesque, something to be attacked, it would be this dazzling, amazing thing. Maybe I’m not too weird for this world, I thought in ninth grade, hair sticky with sugar. Maybe the world isn’t weird enough for me.

II.
And it wasn’t. It just wasn’t. I wrote angsty poems about feeling hellaciously black in a world of sunny, cheerful yellows. I briefly dated a boy who was the lead singer of a screamo band called—I crap you not—NINTH DEGREE BURN. He drew Xs in permanent marker on his wrists and layered black rubber bracelets over them. For Valentine’s Day he gave me a fake rose that he had dyed black, and I gave him two carnations like how you were supposed to do at funerals. All of my friends’ screen names were like xNxOxOxOxIxWxOxNxT or like xXwishyouweredeadXx. I started wearing clothes from my mom’s closet, fun stuff like this white Heidi-of-the-mountains lace-up suspender skirt that had people yodeling at me in the hallways and asking if I was competing in the Ice Capades this winter.

I had a total of maybe four friends, none of whom I ever confided in or spent time with outside of school, but they were misfits too. One of them had been misfortunately nicknamed “the plumber” because someone had spied her crack in shop class; another wore her hair in a long, thick medieval braid right down to her rump and pretended that our little suburban town in decline was really the Welsh countryside, sprawling and giving. Another was a practicing Wiccan whose mother had pictures of naked, oiled rock stars in her house and once lent me a black cape to wear, just ’cause.

As high school went on, I became bolder, more contrarian. It seemed like I was one of four people in my school who read books outside of class. I argued with my English teachers whenever they insisted there was a “right” way to interpret a text. I loved Joyce and Keats and Frost and Melville and Twain and Woolf and Lawrence, but resisted their place in the English canon all the same. I disagreed openly with my teacher’s Freudian reading of The Metamorphosis and tried to formulate my burgeoning thoughts on feminism and racism while the rest of the class was falling asleep or copying each other’s homework for the next period’s class. My English classes turned into one long dialectical conversation between me and my teacher about literature and privilege and criticism. I stomped around in platform combat boots and shredded sweaters and my mom’s old clothes that I rescued from the Dumpster. On days when I just couldn’t bear to step foot in my high school, days when I knew I couldn’t take it, I would skip school and take the bus to Queens and then a subway to the East Village because I harbored some absurd delusion that if I stood outside Kim’s Video in my combat boots and my shredded clothes and my sugared hair that made me the target of confused bees everywhere for long enough, I would eventually be swept up into a world of art and music and poetry. Deep down, as a 15-year-old misfit, I honestly thought that I would find my community just by standing around and doing nothing.

III.
But I didn’t, and I was learning that standing around and doing nothing would not get you any closer to finding your place in the world. I had to do something. If everyone said I was weird, I thought, then maybe I was weird, and maybe I liked it, because I had to like myself if I was going to keep on living, and I wanted to keep on living, and if I wanted to keep on living then I would have to like whatever it was about me that marked me as “different” from everyone else. So I embraced it. I did stuff with it. If I was a speck of paint in a world without walls then I would build those walls myself. I convinced my parents to let me volunteer at a community center that put on punk-rock shows on the weekends and struck up a friendship with the director of the center, a 40-year-old former punker named Jim who gave me lists of movies to watch and introduced me to the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith and Television. When my dad brought home a crappy, old-school, dial-up modem that I wasn’t allowed to use more than an hour a day because it made our phone lines busy, I spent that hour looking up profiles on AOL of people who liked Sylvia Plath poems and James Baldwin novels and listened to Jade Tree records, and put all of my energy into befriending them. I made friends with an anemic, sensitive, literary punker from Omaha, Nebraska. We sent each other care packages filled with Polaroids and mixtapes, collages that he had made for me and poems that I wrote for him. I was alone and I wasn’t alone.

I spent my lunch period writing poems about escape and fantasy. I cut my hair short and dyed it burgundy. I applied to a summer program at Stanford University for high school students who wanted to spend three weeks intensively studying philosophy. I got in, and for the first time in a long time, I was happy. I felt like I belonged somewhere. I made more friends in three weeks than I had in five years. The first night, 10 of us sat around in a circle talking about faith and our relationship to God and debated about abortion and the death penalty, and I explained how my atheism didn’t deprive me of morality or purpose. We stayed up every night until four or five in the morning just talking talking talking, frantic that there wouldn’t be enough time to learn everything about each other, and there wasn’t. “I’ll never be the same again,” I wrote in my notebook on the plane ride back to New York. And I wasn’t. My suspicion that there was space for me in this world had been confirmed, however fleetingly, and I thought maybe if I could just get through high school and escape my miserable town then I would continue to find these spaces already inhabited by others who had made the same pilgrimage that I wanted so badly to make.

I approached my last year of high school with a level of misanthropy that I find embarrassing now. When I was voted “Most Individual,” it felt like a backhanded compliment coming from my classmates, who systematically tore down individuality and championed conformity. I watched and taped religiously every single episode of Freaks and Geeks on my VCR, regularly staying after class to trade recaps and commentary with my English teacher, who identified as the “geek” to my “freak.” I fell to the floor, overcome with vindication, when in the last episode the AV teacher drew an imaginary graph for Sam, Neil, and Bill, illustrating the rise and decline of the high school jocks and popular girls who would never know glory again after high school, whereas the freaks, geeks, and cretins would steadily rise. I just have to wait, I thought. I just have to wait until I graduate from high school, and then I’m gonna get the hell out of here. I knew my people were out there, scattered like I was scattered, and somehow I was gonna traverse this fucking amazing universe and find each and every one of them and we would be one another’s barrier to the horrific outside world that did not love us, did not appreciate us, and did not care that we spent the first 17 years of our lives so utterly alone.

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87 Comments

  • KinuKinu April 18th, 2012 3:06 PM

    This is so awesome!!

  • Marguerite April 18th, 2012 3:19 PM

    i wanna go to this stanford thing!!!

    • Jenny April 18th, 2012 5:04 PM

      Marguerite & anyone else interested, here’s a link to summer programs for high schoolers at Stanford: http://summer.stanford.edu/programs/program/high-school-students-ages-16-17. I don’t think they do the Discovery Institute in Philosophy anymore, but they have lots of other cool programs in the summer. In fact, pretty much every single university has summer programs for high school students that range from one week long or 8 weeks long. I teach at a creative writing summer camp for high schoolers at the University of Iowa. It’s called the Iowa Young Writers’ Workshop and it’s rad. You can find out more here: http://www.uiowa.edu/~iyws/tableofcontents.htm

      You usually have to apply to these things by January or February, and possibly earlier if you think you might need Financial Aid. BTW, the Stanford thing I did was really generous with financial aid and the crew I was with was super diverse in terms of socio-economics so don’t feel discouraged by the ridiculously high tuition costs and fees because a lot of schools will give you scholarships. Good luck!

      • cocolarue April 18th, 2012 9:09 PM

        I don’t know if this is possible, but I think I got mail from Stanford about this? I also got one from NYU, but I couldn’t afford either of them :(

        Anyway, this is an amazing piece and it was just what I needed to read today. Thank you!

      • Pinkovski April 20th, 2012 4:33 AM

        Jenny, thank you very much for this piece. Excellent writing, and you have the ability to explain the experience of an ‘outsider’ so well. It makes me happy to recognize other people like me! And it definitely gets better as we grow older and become more comfortable in our own skins and heads and minds. Philosophy saved me when i went to university, and varsity brought me, for the first time ever, like-minded friends. What a blessing, oh the joy and conversations and parties and all the laughter and late nights. There is so much to look forward to. Life IS beautiful, especially if you’re with a bunch of outsiders, observers and artists who can appreciate the finer nuances of life that is not so easily visible to the rest of humankind. Lots of love from South Africa. Please keep on writing.

  • 26dollars April 18th, 2012 3:19 PM

    This made me cry, but it gives me hope. It’s absolutely beautiful.

  • Abby April 18th, 2012 3:37 PM

    You’re just… just… amazing. This made me cry, because I’ve realized that I’m on my way to doing what you’ve done. I’m learning that I don’t need to change myself, I just have to be myself and do the things I like and the people I like will find me. Thank you.

    • Jenny April 24th, 2012 1:57 AM

      Keep going, Abby! You will find your people <3

  • Emily April 18th, 2012 3:39 PM

    This is beautiful. And what needs to be heard, sometimes. Thank you, Jenny. Your articles are always funny and poignant and inspirational, all at the same time.

  • Nishat April 18th, 2012 3:41 PM

    I definitely have a “lifetime membership to the Itty Bitty Titty Committee” and I’m trying to come to terms with that, haha. (So flat it’s unreal.)

  • MaryFairy April 18th, 2012 3:56 PM

    I know that its important to develop our interests now but….what if I can’t find anything I love to do ? Every day just seems dull and I feel like I can’t contribute anything to the conversations around me. I’m sixteen now and it seems like my window of oppotunity for growth and development is closing …..sorry to sound so gloomy but its been playing on ky mind a lot…

    • Pashupati April 18th, 2012 7:27 PM

      At some point I felt like my own “window of opportunity for growth and development” was closing, but it’s just… I’ve always been made feel as if not being a genius or good at something at some age was a problem. It turns out I was actually good for things, but I felt that it wasn’t possible for me to do these things at that age and share these things with persons! I met bad persons and got interested in other things for which it seemed easier to participate, do something about but now I know I could have searched another “community” for my first hobby (yet, it’s more complicated.)
      So, well, quick advices:
      Try doing stuffs that you find stupid or not for you for some reason (thinking you’re too young/old, your gender or being a POC, or being disabled, or even because of unrelated stereotypes linked to the hobby, etc.)
      Example: I always thought macrame was tacky because there is some sort of cliché about faking liking child’s macrame gift.
      Sometimes you just don’t think about it, because it’s like it doesn’t exist or doesn’t exit for [people like] you and you shouldn’t be stopped by that.
      It’s also common to not have interests for a while, it does not mean you’ll never have any.
      Find lists of hobbies online and pick one and read random Wikipedia pages, walk blindly in a library and pick a random book or video where you don’t usually pick books up and see if you feel interested while reading it. Maybe find free classes for woodworking, chess or dancing or someone to teach you.
      You don’t need to be automatically good at what you try out, have fun first! Hope it helps.

      • MaryFairy April 18th, 2012 8:22 PM

        Thanks for the advice! Yeah well I guess its partly that I get bored easily as well. And i just realised recently, after studying piano for some 10 years that I don’t really like it that much.
        I can definetely relate to what you said about thinking its a problem to not be good enough for a certain age…so the problem might be over-analyzing the whole thing. I never even thought about it that way.
        Maybe I should just shut up and make some macrame already.
        PS also window of opportunity? Growth and development? The things I say when being dramatic. Oh dear.

    • lorobird April 18th, 2012 10:31 PM

      Hey, you’ll be alright :) . I’m almost 22 and still struggling with figuring out what I want and what I’m good at. For so long I simultaneously felt bored and uninterested, while lamenting all the missed opportunities.

      But it’s okay! You have plenty ahead, unless you are 95, you have all the time you need. High school is freaking boring anyway. Just start doing little things, poke here and there, stick to things for a while (you need to give everything a decent chance).

      Taking decisions is what gets you going. You don’t find stuff you like by bumping into it or discovering your hidden talent all of a sudden. You have to try a lot of shit, and meet some people and read a lot.

      You aren’t born with a passion for something; you develop a passion. But most importantly, your skills and talents and hobbies don’t define who you are. Personalities are fluid things, constantly evolving, adapting and growing. You will inevitably grow bored of things, find new things, then start liking something else.

      This is not a bad thing. Most of us aren’t born to be opera virtuosos, we just do stuff we enjoy doing, and then do some other stuff.

      And that stuff may just be ‘finding a group of friends who are hilarious and going for a couple drinks with them’.

      Good luck :) and don’t despair! If all else fails, get yourself a pair of hiking boots and discover nature!

  • HarrietIsAPirate April 18th, 2012 4:08 PM

    Wow. Just wow. This is beautiful, and inspiring, and exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much.

    It always amazes me when I read things like this, where a person describes feeling the exact same things that I feel. It makes the world seem a lot less vast and lonely.

  • _marina_ April 18th, 2012 4:16 PM

    Thank you.

  • MissKnowItAll April 18th, 2012 4:33 PM

    Oh Jenny, I love you.
    Will you be my fairy god mother?

    • Jenny April 24th, 2012 1:55 AM

      Sure! Will you be my cunning and resourceful heroine? You already are!

      • MissKnowItAll April 25th, 2012 3:31 PM

        ha! Badass Cinderella!

  • Sphinx April 18th, 2012 4:36 PM

    Jenny, you always write the best stuff!

  • northernground April 18th, 2012 4:40 PM

    Thank you thank you thank you for this. I was in a big “highschool is complete hell” mood today and this just made my day to be reminded that eventually things improve.

  • MissKnowItAll April 18th, 2012 4:53 PM

    Umm. What up with the random tags?

  • anacarolinap April 18th, 2012 4:54 PM

    The most beautiful thing I have ever read, made me cry and smile.

  • Steph April 18th, 2012 5:03 PM

    oh my god this gave me so much hope for the future

  • Saraleebread April 18th, 2012 5:06 PM

    I really enjoy reading your stories on here, especially the ones about “finding yourself” if that is the correct term for this idea…It really helps me out and helps me realize that what I want now could happen but I need to do things to get there and that maybe I’ll find things I want more. I’m really glad you found your people Jenny!

  • shelley April 18th, 2012 5:14 PM

    thank you for this, so beautiful! I’m really scared that I peaked already in sixth form and now at uni it’s all going down hill, and this helped me shake that a bit!

  • caro nation April 18th, 2012 5:20 PM

    You just cured me of depression. I’m completely sincere. That was catharsis. Jenny, you’re a saint.

    Please shout this from a megaphone.

    • Jenny April 24th, 2012 1:59 AM

      Your comment makes me so happy, I don’t even know what to do with myself!

      • caro nation April 24th, 2012 7:56 PM

        I was on the fence for the longest time, but this was like your best friend finally pushing you over to the other side of the yard OHMETAPHORS. This has given a tremendous amount of hope, thank you so much!

  • whodatgal April 18th, 2012 5:32 PM

    Omigod this is so amazing and inspiring. You’re amazing Jenny. You’re awesome. I love ROOKIE for its honesty. Jenny est the best. It rhymess hahaa!

    Ophelia x

    http://www.opheliahorton.wordpress.com

  • Three Plays by Margot Tenenbaum April 18th, 2012 5:36 PM

    I feel like I should pipe up to say that this is one of the best things I’ve read on Rookie…and that I’m so glad that Rookie’s target audience doesn’t have to go school and see people wearing those awful JNCO jeans. I remember unfondly.

  • hollz April 18th, 2012 5:39 PM

    I really wish I had this to read in high school. I was almost the exact same, except not as extroverted cause I didn’t think I could handle even further exclusions from my classmates. I’m 17 now and at college. I couldn’t do another year at school. I’ve seen only one girl from school who felt the exact way as me about it all. I still get very insecure sometimes. I always think people don’t like me at school. But it is just paranoia. I absolutely love college and I’ve met a boy who likes all the same music as me and is just such a genuinely nice guy. However, I’m pretty sure I’ve fucked it up.

    Anyway, to all those still hatin’ it at high school. I absolutely promise it gets better.

  • havefun April 18th, 2012 5:41 PM

    I kept thinking of Once In A Lifetime. Such a good song.

  • AnguaMarten April 18th, 2012 5:42 PM

    thank you so much for writing this.

  • erin April 18th, 2012 6:16 PM

    this is so wonderful! I can’t wait to get away from my own horrible place. Your story is wonderful.

  • taste test April 18th, 2012 6:17 PM

    this is the best.

    seriously, I teared up at the end, and I am one of those people who never ever cries. I’m pretty sure this answers the secret question every weird teenager has, which can be worded a lot of ways but always boils down to “will I ever find people who are okay with me?”

    thank you for writing and sharing this.

  • crazyotakuchick April 18th, 2012 6:40 PM

    thank you so much, I’m in 8th grade and an outcast. Your story has given me a little hope that maybe it will get better.

  • dianeisnotmyname April 18th, 2012 6:56 PM

    Thank you so so much for writing this. I love writing, and it’s pieces like this that I wish I could emulate. Also, thanks for the suggestion about the University of Iowa program. It sounds fantastic.

  • Janelle April 18th, 2012 7:02 PM

    I needed this. This was the most excellent thing ever. Thanks times a million Jenny! It’s a scary world to start doing anything in, but hearing about experiences like this make me feel like I’ll live through it all.

  • peanutbutter April 18th, 2012 7:03 PM

    I really wish I could have read this when I was in high school.

    It’s massively inspiring now, but it probably would have been life-changing back then.

  • Moxx April 18th, 2012 7:04 PM

    This is amazing.

    The thing about standing in front of Kim’s- I have done EXACTLY that.
    I live in this city, supposedly the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, and I still feel like I don’t know anyone. If I feel so stupidly alone in such a big city, what is there to do?
    Like
    Where is the band of misfits? Where are the awesome people I wish I could know? What am I doing with my youth, which was supposed to be full of adventures and interesting things and people and events?
    Instead I just stay in and re-arrange my music and make playlists for colors and annotate books I like that I know we’ll never get to study in class and make shirts and watch La Planète Sauvage for the 999th time.
    OH NO LIFE IS A LIIIIIIE

    I’ve honestly felt like this too many times to count.

    This has given me hope. And I see that I need to do in order to get.
    This and that 8th Just Wondering. Right now, I guess I’m “building up”, prepping in a way. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do.
    This has inspired me to get off my ass and do.
    Thank you.

    • Jenny April 24th, 2012 2:02 AM

      Do do do! And maybe I didn’t make this clear in my essay, but my first attempts at ‘doing’ were often NOT all that successful–oftentimes, I embarrassed myself by trying to do things and sometimes I just didn’t know what I was ‘doing’ even as I was ‘doing’ it. But, eventually if you keep doing stuff, you’ll find your own way in this world. That’s what I think. <3

  • kirsten April 18th, 2012 7:14 PM

    <3 Shakespeare and Company <3

    • Mags April 18th, 2012 9:16 PM

      It makes me so happy that other people know about it! I went there for the first time two years ago and it was like magic.

  • mirandab17 April 18th, 2012 8:13 PM

    I’ve started making Rookie Mag a tradition every day. Each time I come home from school, I escape onto this other little world, full of wisdom and good humour and sheer intelligence.

    This article, Jenny, is exactly why this has become a part of my day. Reading this made me reflect on… everything – my friends, my parents, my siblings, what makes my heart beat, crushes, dreams, fears… I just feel so released. I can’t seem to express it exactly, but just, thank you. People like you are helping what you once were in the past feel like there is hope, even when no one else around seems like they ever would be able to fathom you.

  • Mags April 18th, 2012 9:15 PM

    You are incredibly brave for actually just DOING it (not meant to sound like a Nike ad at all), because sometimes it’s incredibly hard, when you feel defeated, to find the energy to get started.

  • madpie April 18th, 2012 9:18 PM

    Please, please, please read this and record it for us.

    This is one of those stories a best friend tells you at two am in the morning over waffles and finishes at four am…

    Do the world a favor and let us be your friend for a moment

    Beautiful piece

  • Kristen April 18th, 2012 9:19 PM

    This made me feel so good. I’m gonna have to bookmark it for bad days.

    This is what I LOVE about Rookie! Thank you Jenny, Tavi, Anaheed, and the person who picks the background picture everyday. I love all of you.

  • vanguardinspace April 18th, 2012 9:20 PM

    You took the words right out of my mouth mirandab17.

    I was so pleasantly surprised when i found this website. Surprised that there were other people who have the same thoughts i do, that obsess about things and care “too much” and feel outcast. And that they grow up. And that they, well, we will find our place someday.

    This article couldn’t have come at a better time, I was teetering on the edge of falling back into depression and this has brought me out. It’s easy to look at the past, and it’s easy to look at the present, because we have met them before. It’s more difficult to imagine what will happen in the future, because it isn’t necessarily going to be similar to our previous experiences, so hearing from people who have gone through this already is SO helpful.

  • zombiesockmonkey April 18th, 2012 10:42 PM

    I love reading Rookie because it’s absolute proof that other girls like me exist, and survive growing up. This article was just what the doctor ordered

  • Emilie April 18th, 2012 10:42 PM

    so so so soso soso fantastic and beautiful and helpful and encouraging and thought provoking, and echoing of some of my current predicaments, and hopeful and… thank you.

  • sarabigail April 18th, 2012 11:52 PM

    Really needed this. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Whatsername April 19th, 2012 12:26 AM

    I can always connect in a way to the pieces about your school years, Jenny. {Maybe because I identify as a sort of angsty, poetic punker myself, and because most of my friends are asian and are often running into racist situations. We never had it as bad as you, though; our school’s fairly tolerant for an American high school…}

  • Bieb April 19th, 2012 1:58 AM

    I also really needed it. I’m 25 and recently I’ve been thinking ‘why am i so happy and complacent? shouldn’t i be a rebel or something? Am i not betraying my younger outsider self?’. But now I feel I should accept my happiness and not feel guilty about it. i guess a part of me still feels like a lonely teenager, and that part doesn’t want to believe my luck

  • Razzmatazzberry April 19th, 2012 2:21 AM

    This post makes me so excited about LIFE!

  • minnow April 19th, 2012 4:36 AM

    Thankyou so much for this!
    You’ve just made me really hopeful and motivated to do shitloads of work so I can do what I want to in life.
    This article is exactly why rookie RULES

  • Weeezy April 19th, 2012 8:35 AM

    LOVE LOVE LOVE. everytime i read something like this from rookiemag, it makes me excited for being me for the rest of my life!

  • potameides April 19th, 2012 10:32 AM

    This is gorgeous Jenny.

    I know my own version of your story so well too. I’m 22, and as far as I can remember been an incredibly sensitive person who has a love for life in my own way. Unfortunately, I’ve felt largely unable to experience it and get any release from the countless inhibitions that I’ve been buried alive under.

    I stopped going to school at 15 and had to do my GCSE’S at home. I was taken to in a psychiatric hospital in the summer of 2006-2007, had a short spell in college afterwards studying art (for about 14 months where I took hold of some new feelings of energy, indestructibility and freedom & was more interested in being a weird character and getting swept up by people and places than doing the work a lot of the time and generally looking after myself.
    I’m intelligent enough and love to learn but I just couldn’t cope up with school and my environments. I’m cripplingly scared of other people, bar those couple of manic years at 17-18 where I met more people than I’ve ever talked to in my life beforehand and got myself into all sorts of horrible situations (which was I think a mixture of serious health problems and growing up that are now still very hard for me to differentiate.)

    I somehow managed to find my lovely boyfriend of over 4 years now who’s stayed with me through all sorts, and sew & generally create at home. I can’t work right now and have no idea how I’m ever going to be able to make a living and look after myself. I’m under a high level of care from my community mental health team though and am trying. Here’s hoping I’ll get something sorted :)

  • Starboardd April 19th, 2012 12:00 PM

    But really — isn’t Virginia Woolf the best thing that ever happened to literature.

  • all-art-is-quite-useless April 19th, 2012 12:20 PM

    I needed this right now, thank you so much.

  • Sterling87 April 19th, 2012 1:09 PM

    AHH Jenny, I love you! I read your story “The Evolution of My Brother” the other night and that bit about the “Power Rain” made me cry really hard (It’s still a mystery exactly WHY that is). This rocks too. <3

    gaudyalternative.blogspot.com

  • Stephanie April 19th, 2012 1:16 PM

    Jenny, ah! This is beautiful! And so familiar in many ways. I think I was living the Chicago version of it.

  • Johann7 April 19th, 2012 4:51 PM

    This makes me think of Broken Bells’s “October”.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLlUAwobghc

  • rafa April 19th, 2012 5:07 PM

    I wish i had read something like this when I was 13 but I think I’m still not so old to try. thank you

  • neenah April 20th, 2012 3:52 PM

    Jenny- I enjoy your stories so much! I hope that one day they are turned into a big book so I can read them whenever I want, not just when I’m at the computer :)

    • Jenny April 24th, 2012 2:03 AM

      Thank you so much neenah! I am working on a book–who knows if it’ll be a real book or just a book in my head for the rest of my life? <3

  • lovetherain April 20th, 2012 4:41 PM

    This was wonderful, and beautiful, and reassuring.

    Because right now, I’m still standing on a street corner waiting for something to happen.

    And I have no idea what to do, but now I know that I, at the very least, have to do SOMETHING.

    And I will.

    You inspired me…..so, thank you :0)

  • DANNI April 20th, 2012 10:40 PM

    KIM’S VIDEO AND MUSIC! I GET ALL OF MY MUSIC THERE! (hehehehehe that place is really near and dear to my heart)

  • Gretchyn April 21st, 2012 12:30 PM

    This really makes me hopeful I’m so glad you wrote this Jenny beautifully.

  • Kaleidoscopeeyes April 21st, 2012 3:39 PM

    This is perfect for everything I feel right now. Rookie just has a way of doing that. Thank you so much.

  • hellocat April 23rd, 2012 9:58 PM

    This is just what I needed to read. I felt very lonely in High School and beginning of College and I’m realizing that I’m waiting for things to happen and not making them happen. So I’m transferring colleges and making things happen. I’m not certain about anything, but it’s better than living life in fear.

  • caro nation April 23rd, 2012 11:54 PM

    Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was….

  • Jenny April 24th, 2012 1:54 AM

    I’ve read each of these comments four or five times with ‘lil tears brimming each time. I can’t tell you what will happen to you in your life, but I sure hope all of you find your happy, creative bubbles. You are all in my heart.

    (So many you’s.)

    love, Jenny

  • Jenny April 24th, 2012 2:10 AM

    I really want to respond to every single comment (but I can’t at the moment) & thank each and every one of you for being here for me and for each other and for yourself, because just the fact of your internet presence here on Rookie makes me feel less alone (and I’m still susceptible to feeling alone…even though I have so much that I am grateful for.) Thanks for sharing your stories, your fears, your dreams, your thoughts–happy and sad ones alike. I’m rooting for you.

  • 20yroldrookie April 24th, 2012 2:17 AM

    I know this sounds insincere and even slightly sycophantic but I have truly never dared to comment on any piece on all the websites/zines that I frequent on. However, this piece just moved me so deeply that I felt compelled to tell you, Jenny, that your story inspires me so much. I needed to be reminded that I have to do something, anything to get to where I wanna be in life. Thank you so much. Your writing is beautiful and always hits the spot.

    • Jenny April 26th, 2012 1:37 AM

      This is so sweet of you & I’m honored that you have dared to comment. You are like Prufrock, who dares to eat a peach and wears his trousers rolled. And yes, do anything. Always always always do anything.

      love,
      Jenny

  • Lauren Poor April 30th, 2012 11:52 PM

    i love this : )

  • DaliaB May 8th, 2012 10:51 PM

    Even though I came across this a little “lateish,” I figured “Screw it I’m going to comment!” because like a lot of the previous readers I can’t help but say how much I loved this. (For sure my favorite article I’ve read on Rookie). I’m 16, about halfway through high school now, and I can identify with this so much and it just really inspired me, especially because I love writing too. (What you said about seeking out Sylvia Plath enthusiasts on AOL was awesome by the way. I’m sort of obsessed with her, to the point where I can recite some of her poems by memory. Usually… in the shower. Ha!) It’s also kind of cool seeing other people comment on here saying they feel the same way, which is why I really like this site, because it brings a group of readers together that I identify with. Definitely makes me believe there’s another world I’d love to be a part of out there. Thanks Jenny!

    • Jenny May 15th, 2012 3:09 AM

      You are so welcome! Also: I am so impressed that you can recite Plath poems from memory. Be still my beating heart!

  • Deborah May 18th, 2012 10:02 AM

    Late to the party (linked from yr blog!), but I just registered to say this is incredible. Holy shit. Thank you.

  • pusupulu May 28th, 2012 8:27 AM

    This is amazing. You are amazing. All of you are amazing.

    I have to say this now. Rookie is the best thing. Gahh I can’t find the words, this site/magazine/blog thingy that this is, is so wonderful and inspirational. This is something that I’ve been searching for a long time and now I’ve found it.

    And now about this article. I can’t help admiring you, eventhough I kind of did the same thing but not really. I’ve never fit in the group of people my school had offered me. Of course I had friends but they weren’t my style except for this one girl. But yeah, when it was time to go in to upper secondary school I went to the one I felt would fit me and now I’ve found all these lovely people and I feel that I’m not an outcast anymore.

    The thing is that school doesn’t last forever, and I’ve no idea what I’m going to do in couple of years. This autumn i’ll be a second grader and after that an abiturient (finnish school system woopwoop!) and after that.. No idea.

    And that will leave me with no soulmates because everyone else have got their future planned out. But this story gave me hope. Hope that there are always people somewhere like you. You made me really glad :)

    Actually you all make me really glad because you’ve figured out your lives and do what you like. I wish I could do the same thing.

  • llamalina June 5th, 2012 12:58 PM

    It’s so amazing to find and read articles like this on Rookie. It’s awe-inducing to realize that I am not the only one who feels alone in high school. I have felt every word in this piece down to my bones. It’s inspiring to know that us outcasts do get somewhere eventually. I feel like I’m just sitting around with my friends doing nothing, complaining and expecting the world to suddenly give us happiness and purpose and then jump for joy, and it’s nice to know that other people have felt that way too. This was /beautiful/ and exactly what I needed to counteract how high school makes me feel (read: freak) and make me feel more like a human being.

  • Daywoah June 14th, 2012 11:51 AM

    Just like 20yroldrookie, I have never registered to a site or forum in order to post a comment. However, like 20yroldrookie I felt compelled to in this case. (I am also 20 years old. Coincidence? I think not!) I’ve been battling a sly, shape-shifting depression for three years and discovering Rookie a couple of months ago helped change my entire perspective on so many things.

    This article in particular motivated me (you should know that is a huge feat as I was a confirmed Sloth in another life) to just. keep. going. As lame as it might sound, I agree that simply ‘doing’ what appeals to you will eventually take you where you need to go. I also write (mainly poetry) and without reassurance from others, I usually find it a huge struggle to make a ‘real’ effort.

    Thank you so much Jenny for paving the way. It almost doesn’t seem real that there are people like you out there! I hope I can find some closer to where I live (Sydney, Australia). (And I hope I can find the courage to seek them out.)

    I love reading all the comments on Rookie as well — often positive and affirming. Xxx

  • xoxoemm33 June 14th, 2012 10:36 PM

    The last paragraph of this article makes me feel so much better just about my whole entire life in general.

    I need this reminder everyday that my content yet lonely life in high school right now is not going to be the life I will grow into. So at the times when I feel my worst and invisible and lonely I will just tell myself, 1)other people feel the same way 2)I will eventually find my kind of people 3)I will not always feel lonely so take advantage of the solidarity and do something with it like write,art,learn something.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • eagleversusshark July 13th, 2012 2:10 AM

    i identify so much, i just feel i’m so far away from anyone who could make my life as interesting as i want it to be

  • Nikilodeon July 31st, 2012 8:20 AM

    Those last few lines just brought me to tears. Jenny, you are an inspiration to me. Congratulations for finding your place and making it out there. I can only hope that I’ll be brave enough to do the same..

    I’ve really never felt so alone. I mean, really, I am just so relieved after reading this, because you capture EXACTLY how I’m feeling, and it’s kind of comforting to know that someone else who used to be alone now has this awesome life. While I was reading that stuff about you going to Paris and poetry readings, all I could think of was “Wow, I wanna be this girl!” It’s just . .. I dunno, so amazing that there’s a possibility I could have the life I want, like you, just by starting to do things. I’m so filled with hope now, knowing that one day I’ll have friends who won’t judge me for who I am or immediately attach me to a stereotype. You’re truly an inspiration – I can’t say that enough.

    Thank you Jenny for writing this and sharing your experience. :) But I do have one question. How exactly do you start doing things to change your life? I know this is a really weird question, but I am so inspired by you, only I don’t know where to begin.

    Whether you answer my question or not, thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you know that you made a very lost, sad, lonely 17 year old girl out there very happy and hopeful. :)

  • imaginaryfemur August 11th, 2012 2:51 PM

    This was a joy to read but it’s also really heartbreaking because I’m already two years deep in college and I still feel like I don’t fit and can’t relate and can’t connect. I’m scared I made a mistake staying at my school and I’m scared I’m just broken.